Friday, 30 January 2009

Mountnessing: Congregational Chapel 1881 - 1981

The first history booklet I ever wrote was in 1981 about the Mountnessing Congregational Chapel. At the time I was attending the Ingatestone United Reformed Church. The Minister, Revd. Leslie Clegg, encouraged me in this research and it was published as a supplement in the church’s magazine, The Messenger, in October that year. I found my copy a few months ago and decided to republish it on the blog.

If the Mountnessing Congregational Chapel was still standing it would have celebrated its 100th Anniversary this year (1981). It was a small chapel with a hundred sittings and throughout its history was part of Ingatestone Congregational Church, from where a Minister was supplied.

The story of the Mission Room begins on 26th April 1881 when at a Church Meeting:

“The Pastor [Rev. J. W. Houchin, Minister 1873 to 1895] reported that Mr J. J. Reeve of Chelmsford, had offered a piece of land (freehold) at Mountnessing upon which to erect a mission room.

“Resolved that Mr. Reeve’s kind offer be gratefully accepted and that Rev. J. W. Houchin, Pastor, Messrs. J. Nash and J. Nicholls, Deacons, with Mr J. J. Reeve, be requested to act as a Building Committee.”

During the next meeting, held in June, it was reported that the Mission Room was to be built by Messrs. Fincham and Beaumont of Chelmsford, for the sum of £199, and it was on Tuesday, 11th October, 1881, that the Mission Room was opened.

“A sermon was preached in the afternoon by the Rev. Postans of Baddow Road, Chelmsford. A tea and Public Meeting were held in the evening presided over by F. Wells Esq. Addresses were given at the Public Meeting, showed that the entire cost of the building … would be £245, towards which £215 had been promised.”

From then onwards services were held on Sunday afternoons. On October 22nd “an afternoon School had been opened. There were six teachers and fifty scholars”. A later report of 1882 said that there were eight teachers and forty-eight scholars on the roll.

In November 1882 it was announced that the debt which had arisen in the building of the Mission Room had been paid off. A Balance Sheet shown in the Minute Book records the following:

Entire cost of building, furnishing, etc £249.15.10

Mr J. J. Reeve by donations and collection £124.6.0
Rev. J. W. Houchin by collection £115.7.6
Collection at opening services October 11th 1881 £10.2.4

Two items of interest occurred in 1885. Firstly, it was “resolved that in future boxes be handed round after the sermon … to receive offerings of the people for the maintenance of the cause” and, secondly, “a collection was made towards a new harmonium amounting to 44/-“ after the Annual Meeting on October 27th. (This was never purchased).

On October 17th 1891, Mountnessing Mission Room held its tenth Anniversary and on on August 9th 1893 a Sunday School Anniversary was held when “Mr. F. A. Wells gave an address to parents and children”. In March 1895, a week’s Mission was held in Mountnessing conducted by “some Brentwood friends”. A further Missionary Week was held in 1904.

1901 marked the twentieth Anniversary, and it was reported that “there was a fair attendance and several attending from Ingatestone”.

In 1907 members of the Mission Room were given a Metzler organ. The instrument was chosen by Mr. F. Swan (organist at that time) and given by some friends from Chelmsford.

On May 30th 1911 it was reported that the Deeds of the Mission Room had been moved to the Memorial Hall, London.

The next significant date was 1919. At the Quarterly Church Meeting it was proposed that members “should arrange the business of the Mission Room from time to time”. Rev. Mundle was to take the position as head of the Committee but fell seriously ill. It was not until July 19th 1921 that the arrangement began when:

“The Church approved of the following suggestion as to the Mountnessing Mission Committee for the year, Mr. Purver, Miss Riley, and Mrs. Skinn with the Minister, Superintendent and officers of the Church”.

Six months later, on January 18th 1922, Mr. A. Purver became Mountnessing Superintendent, a position he was to hold for the next twenty-two years. It was reported that “Mr. Purver’s election as Mission Superintendent was unanimous”.

On 14th August 1928 the Secretary of Ingatestone read a letter to the Church Meeting from “a recent meeting of the Committee” whereby it had “unanimously decided to approach the Congregational Union with a view to forming an independent cause”.

The following April this was refused because the chapel had no Minister or permanent Secretary.

The ‘thirties was a time of great change for the Mission Room. In 1930 a new constitution was agreed between the two chapels, whereby, among other rules, Mountnessing held its own Church Meetings. The Mission Room was renovated. Mr. Purver reported that “the bill for installing electric light amounted to £10 complete” (May 1931). The formation of the ‘Young Peoples Fellowship’ (October 1934) and ‘Women’s Bright Hour’ (January 1936) were held at Mountnessing during the ministry of Rev. S. E. Boorman (1935 – 40).

In September 1943 a new magazine began for both chapels. Rev. D. Flawn (Minister 1940 – 1945) wrote:

“The monthly Messenger will meet a real need and help enrich the fellowship of the Church”.

In June1944 Mr R Kirkby became Mountnessing Superintendent, succeeding Mr Purver. Little did he know what was ahead. On Wednesday 14th February 1945 disaster struck when the Chapel, as it was now called, was hit by the force of a V2 rocket which fell in the field opposite. Mr Kirkby said at the next meeting:

“It is with regret that we have to record the Destruction of our own Church by enemy action on 14th February, but God has some purpose for allowing this to happen and by His Guidance and Help we will be enabled to carry on His Work”.

The work did continue. Sunday Services were held at 6 Council Houses, the home of Mrs Reynolds; ‘Women’s Bright Hour’ and ‘Christian Endeavour’ were held at Millcroft, Lower Road, the home of Mrs Agnis, and Sunday School was held at the W.I. Hall but later at the Parish Room (September) “through the courtesy of the Vicar of Mountnessing”. Sunday Services were later held in the Parish Room.

The conclusion of the devastation to the building was “total loss”. £43.15.0 worth of internal fittings were lost; the organ was repaired for £15 but later sold because storage costs became to high and the chance of rebuilding the chapel seemed to be slim.

In January 1948, a ray of hope came when “a grant of £375 had been made by the War Fund Committee of the Congregational Union”. The next step was to contact the Government for a building licence to rebuild the Mountnessing Chapel. This was given in July. Rev. S. Lippiatt (Minister 1945 – 1949) remarked:

“The event marked a turning point in the negotiations which have been carried out in the last two years … work should begin without delay”.

The official opening of the New Chapel finally came on April 9th 1949 when the Moderator of the Eastern Province, the Rev. Ellis Pearson preached. The occasion was then followed by tea in the Parish Room attended by an estimated ninety friends. Mr R Kirkby said in the review of the year:

“Our little church stands fast by the Word of God who we believe allowed it to be re-erected for His Worship and Glory”.

Public Woship was held twice on Sunday, at 11.00am and 3.30 or 6.30pm depending upon the time of year; however in October 1950 the service was altered to 6.30pm only.

A month before this it had been announced that a piano had been given by Mrs Ennifer which it was commented “ought to help with the hymn-singing”.

In 1951 there were three landmarks in the Chapel’s history. Firstly, in February, Mr R. Kirkby became President of the Brentwood, Upminster and District Christian Endeavour Federation for 1951/52: he was inducted at Mountnessing Chapel on 31st March; secondly, the Chapel celebrated its seventieth anniversary (13th and 14th October) when the Rev. C. S. Lower of Dagenham preached; and thirdly, the Chapel met its post-war peak with twenty-two church members.

Between 1953 and 1958 there were many united services with the congregation of the Church of England, usually alternating the venue from the Chapel and St John’s Church. This came as a result of the friendship between Rev. N. J. Williams (Minister 1950 to 1958) and Rev. Stock (Anglican Vicar). Other events included a special service conducted by the Rev. C. John Buckingham, M.A., Moderator of the Eastern Province (7th June 1953); the 75th anniversary conducted by Rev. K. N. Taylor (13th October 1956); a series of Crusade Sundays (March 1957) and the resignation of N. J. Williams in November 1958. His successor was Dr. R. M. Alderton who became Minister in 1960.

In 1960 the treasurers of both churches (at Ingatestone and Mountnessing) asked the members to double the collection from £6 to £12 per week in order to pay for Dr Alderton’s stipend. On a sadder note it also marked the death of Mrs Kirkby who “was called Home on May 18th”. She had been Secretary for over twenty years and was succeeded by Mr T S Grist in March 1963.

In 1962 “a handsome new hymn-board was given … in memory of the late Mr A Purver … and dedicated to the Glory of God at the service on Sunday afternoon, September 23rd”. The hymn-board is now used in the church at Ingatestone.

At the joint meeting of the churches in March 1963, Mr Kirkby resigned as Mountnessing Chapel Superintendent but, on failure to find a replacement, it was announced at the joint meeting in 1964 that “with great satisfaction … Mr R Kirkby was willing to become Superintendent of Mountnessing Chapel again”.

In 1964 Sunday School was altered to the morning at 11.00am and on 20th September a joint Harvest Festival was held at Inagtestone. The words of Rev. Williams some seven years earlier were coming true:

“The cause at Mountnessing is quite a small one and when members are lost the numbers are further depleted”.

On 10th March 1965, the state of Mountnessing Chapel became evident. “The Mountnessing Church Committee after prayer and careful consideration decided to discontinue the Sunday evening services at Mountnessing … owing to recent changes in residence, the majority of those who have been in the habit of attending there regularly now live in Ingatestone”.

In July Mr Kirkby finished his stint as superintendent. On his death in October 1980, Rev. Leslie Clegg (Minister, Ingatestone United Reformed Church, 1975 to 1982) described him as a “good and faithful soldier of Jesus Christ”. Mr Grist ended his role as Secretary in December 1965.

In July 1967 the Mountnessing Sunday School amalgamated with Ingatestone. This officially closed Mountnessing Congregational Chapel which was “defunct” in September 1970. On the same site is a house, 245 Roman Road.

However the story does not end there. Between 1976 and 1978, Ingatestone United Reformed Church, formerly the Congregational Church, underwent several major repairs. A sum of £12,000 had to be found. The raising of the Capital was aided by the money which arose from the sale of the Mountnessing Chapel land.

To conclude, the Mountnessing Mission was a very small cause which always looked to Ingatestone for guidance in its early years as it had small numbers to lead. It was not until after 1919 that the Chapel became more active in determining its own affairs and it could be argued that without men such as Mr Purver and Mr Kirkby the cause may have died.

The question remaining is whether the Mission Room should have been built in the first place? At the time the Ingatestone Chapel was thriving with 71 members, 103 scholars and 11 teachers in 1880, so it was for this reason to outreach the work to Mountnessing.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Blackmore: Bell Tower at Priory Church of St Laurence

Blackmore's famous bell tower is discussed in the booklet 'The Bell Tower at Blackmore' with a summary of the tree-ring dating (dendrochronology) work carried out in 2004 on line at The illustration shows the date ranges of the samples taken.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Doddinghurst: Priest House

An interesting website about the Priest House, Doddinghurst, tells that work will be proceeding shortly on its refurbishment. The work will be carried out by Bakers of Danbury.

Situated next to All Saints Church, Doddinghurst, this Grade 2 listed building was constructed sometime between 1500 and 1560 with an extension added during the 19th century and alterations in the 19th and 20th centuries. Records show that this was used as a cottage. In 1944 it was left by Marianne Adams, widow and patron of All Saints Church, to the Diocese of Chelmsford. The church now leases it from the Diocese on a full repairing lease. In recent years the oak timbers on which the building stands has rotted and work is needed to prevent the building falling down.

Pictures which show the problems can be accessed here:

The local church held a Gift Weekend in support of the project and has been able to secure grants. Phase 1 of the work to replace the soleplate can now commence.

The site has a link to Blackmore Area Local History:

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Harlow: Ancient & Modern (7)

Harlowbury Chapel, a Grade I listed building, is on the outskirts of Harlow New Town. Its survival is probably due to alternative use. D W Coller wrote in his 'Peoples History of Essex' (1861):

"A large chapel was built close to the mansion - partly, it is probable, for the use of the tenants, and partly that the abbot and his followers might chant the mass and sing vesper hymns during their stay [en route to and from Bury St Edmunds from London]. This chapel still remains, with its fine circular headed door, and its small antique windows; but Mr Barnard, the owner and occupier of the estate, uses it, as it has been used for a number of years, for the purposes of a granary - sacks occupy the site of the altar, and the aisles and chancel receive the produce of the neighbouring fields".

Friday, 16 January 2009

Blackmore: 1910 Electoral Roll & 1911 Census

Is your name Arthy, Bass, Blencowe or Brace? Gandy, Hull, Kemp or Osborn? What about Attridge, Brazier, Bugler or Conn? Or Game, Hasler, Knight or Mann? Maybe Martin, Maynard, Pagram or Ray? Shuttleworth, Stiff, Sutton or Whitmore? Find all these names and more on the 1910 Electoral Register for Blackmore (Essex) on the main website or the 1911 Census, released this week on . Hours of fun for the genealogist and local historian!!

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Harlow: Ancient & Modern (6)

Harlowbury is a Grade I listed building on the edge of what is now named Old Harlow. What resembles a village surrounded by the 'new town' was once a market town on the London to Cambridge road, having its market day on a Saturday. D W Coller, writing in 'A Peoples History of Essex' (1861) says of Harlowbury:

"Harlow Bury was given to the abbey of Bury St Edmund's by Thurston, son of Wina, in the time of Edward the Confessor; and the lordly abbot of that house appears to have made it a halting place, where he feasted and sojourned for a time, as he travelled to and fro in attending parliament" [Coller, p308].

Friday, 9 January 2009

Morell Roding: Letter to 'Essex Life'

The following was published on the Letters page of ‘Essex Life’ in December 2008. It was my response to a query raised by a reader in an earlier edition. It was published word for word but excluded the study references which I give below. ‘Essex Life’, formerly the ‘Essex Countryside’ magazine, has a history of its own, having been first published in the autumn of 1952.

Your correspondent, M Bryant (September 2008), is right that there were once nine Roding parishes. Morell Roding (not Moral Roding), was once part of White Roding (or Roothing) and had its church at Cammas Hall, which is now a well-advertised fruit farm [note 1]. The farm [note 2] is just to the north of the A1060, Chelmsford to Bishops Stortford road, and about two miles south of Hatfield Broad Oak. The chapel building was for a long time used as a pigeon-house before being demolished by 1860 [note 3]. The name is thought to derive from a Geoffrey Morell who held the manor in 1377 [note 4]. The size of Morell Roding’s population was small, being no more than 40 and comprising of no more than four farms [note 5]. The whole Roding area, then as now, is made up of sparsely populated agricultural communities “which produce heavy crops of wheat and fine barley” [note 6].

1. For example, see advertisement sign on A414 immediately north of M11 junction 7.
3. Durant. Handbook For Essex (1887)
5. Barham, Andrew. Lost Parish Churches of Essex (1990)
6. Coller. The People’s History of Essex (1861)

Andrew Smith
Blackmore, Essex

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Harlow: Ancient & Modern (5)

St Mary, Latton, stands on a slight hill by the side of First Avenue. Originally it stood near to Mark Hall which was demolished during the twentieth century. Although once ravaged by fire the church contains a small chapel and altar tomb to Peter Ardene. There are also magnificent brasses to other members of the Ardene family, and to Frances Frankelin (1604). An ancient altar cloth to the Altham family is in the neighbouring Harlow Museum.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Blackmore: Life as an Essex Agricultural Labourer

Two years of research has gone into this work which began in an attempt to understand what life would have been like for my ancestors, who were Essex agricultural labourers. The booklet (44 pages) is available price £1.50 +P&P. Contact me for information.

In the following extract the agricultural depression is explored.

Growing industrialisation abroad meant that by 1875 England was being inundated by cheap grain from overseas, mainly America. There were also a series of bad harvests, especially in 1878 and 1879. Consequently there began an agricultural depression.

Lord Ernle wrote that, “Land deteriorated in condition. The counties which suffered most were the corn-growing districts, in which high farming had won its most signal triumphs. On the heavy clays of Essex, for example, thousands of acres which had formerly yielded great crops and had paid high rents, had passed out of cultivation into ranches of cattle or temporary sheep-runs” [Ernle. English Farming. Past and Present (1936) p382]. These heavy clay soils required ‘three horses’ to plough and were therefore more expensive to cultivate.

During the period 1875 to 1893 the acreage of wheat in Essex fell from 200,670 to 118,187. Farms went out of business and work in rural parishes dwindled.

The price of wheat was especially low in 1894 and 1895 but showed signs of improvement in 1897. It was not until 1907 that the price rose above 30 shillings (£1.50) per quarter but by then the acreage farmed had declined. In Essex in 1904 there was a reduction of over 21,000 acres of wheat (20.9%) against the previous year.

It was observed, “There seems no doubt that corn-growing on heavy clay soil cannot be made to pay under present conditions; the cost of production is too high, and the market value of the produce too low. Dairy farming is the only kind that is really profitable, and yet Essex is far more suited climatically for wheat-growing, being sunny and dry in the summer – too dry for the best pasture” [Victoria County History. Vol II (1907) p341].

Between 1871 and 1901, one-third of the nation’s male agricultural labourers (including foreman and bailiffs) left the land to find employment elsewhere whilst the population rose by 43%. “The townward pressure was relentless” [Ensor. England 1870-1914 (1936) p286]. Agricultural wages between 1871 and 1901 had risen by 20% but the price of wheat had slumped.

In 1907 wages were “13s.9d., and average extra earnings by piecework 3s.2d., so the total amount received per week is 16s.11d. (84p)” [VCH p328]. With the price of wheat lower, the author of Victoria County History commented that, “the labourer’s position is better … than it had ever been before” [Ibid p328].

During the nineteenth century, baptism entries recorded at the parish church of Blackmore exceed the number of burials by a proportion of two to one [ERO T/Z 227/12]. This data suggests a large growth in population. However census returns show the population of Blackmore declined from 709, in 1841, to a low of 571, in 1881 [Victorian County History Vol. II (1977) p345].

Other summary data gives clues to Blackmore’s economic well-being. The Census records the number of households inhabited and uninhabited.

Between 1841 and 1901 the number of dwellings gradually reduced from 158 (in 1841) to 145 (in 1901).

The level of under-occupation is greatest in the 1881 census, attributable to the onset of the agricultural depression from which Blackmore was not immune. (14.7% of properties were uninhabited.) The previous decade shows the greatest fall in population perhaps accelerating markedly towards the end of the period when the depression really started to have an effect.

© Andrew Smith

Thursday, 1 January 2009


Welcome to this month’s round-up of local history and heritage in and around Blackmore, Essex.

A Happy and Prosperous (?) New Year to all our Readers.

One of the earth shattering events of recent weeks was the announcement that High Street chain Woolworths had gone into administration and was closing all its shops early in January 2009. A High Street icon for nearly 100 years is disappearing. In towns we have seen a frenzy of buying all that it had at huge discounts, even to the extent that all shop fittings were being sold off. The UK economic downturn has been the most sudden in our living memories and pessimism is all around that things will get worse before they get better. These economic cycles have happened before and we are reminded in the Bible that often after seven years plenty there comes seven years famine. The problem is that as a nation we have kidded ourselves that things would have become endlessly better and everyone significantly richer through increasing the value of intangible things. The collapse of High Street businesses and that nostalgic last ‘pick and mix’ in Woolies is a potent sign of the times.

I am not an economist at all but those who follow, study or even learn from history will know that events are constantly changing and our reaction at the time affects the future.

Two years ago I began researching what life would have been like as an agricultural labourer in Essex during Victorian times. The booklet entitled ‘Life as an Essex Agricultural Labourer’ with particular emphasis on Blackmore and the surrounding area is launched today. An assumption which I initially made was that life changed very little during that period. This was challenging when I discovered that hoards of people left the land during the agricultural depression of the late nineteenth century to find work in London. The economic downturn of 1879 was perhaps greater than the one of 2008. Our forefathers adapted and survived and no doubt we all will too.

Nostalgia or a business

BT has carried out a survey of payphone usage in Stondon Massey and found that its red telephone box in Stondon Massey receives little use. It proposes the removal of the facility and has approached Stondon Massey Parish Council to ‘adopt the kiosk’. Consultation on this matter is under way ending on 25th February 2009, says Brentwood Borough Council.

Blackmore – Village Study

Intended as a resource for school pupils, the following sequence includes a number of views of Blackmore today. Follow this link: Blackmore Essex Village Study

Blackmore – Answers

Follow this link for historical, geographical and topographical information on Blackmore, Hook End and Wyatts Green:

Blackmore – The Barge photographed

A lovely photograph of the village pond and ‘Barge Cottage, Blackmore’ can be found by following this link:

Stondon Massey – find a grave

Visiting the churchyard is a good place to find a grave. But seriously, this site is a record of interments, in this case at St Peter and St Paul Church, Stondon Massey. Follow the link: The site also mentions and has a biography of the famous local Elizabethan composer, William Byrd. See the following:

Writtle – graveyard photographed

Follow link:

High Ongar – Church photographed

St Mary’s Church High Ongar gets photographic attention by Harlowirish on Flicker.

Unlocking Essex

Unlocking Essex is a record of listed buildings and sites of historic interest. It is a very interesting website. For a sample page showing Blackmore follow this link:

Norton Mandeville – Victoria County History

Follow link to page:

Epping Forest Museum launch new website

“EPPING FOREST: A new local history website for primary schools has been launched by Epping Forest District Museum”. A quick surf reveals an impressive site covering many parishes in the Epping Forest District Council area, the nearest being High Ongar, immediately to the west of Blackmore. It has links away from the site to the Victoria County History volume written about the Ongar Hundred. Log on to


Links list

The following links are recommended, although I cannot be responsible for their content.

Blackmore Area Local History
More information can be found on the sister site. (I am responsible for the content of this site!).

Blackmore Village website.
Very popular community website contains local and family history information.
Now with over 10000 hits

Priory Church of St Laurence
Link to Parish Church (Church of England) website - Home page
History page
Friends of St Laurence, Blackmore
The web-page of the support group

Other sites
History House (includes a link to this blog), written by Keldon.

Photos, maps and memories from the Francis Frith collection


Bessie Blount

Villages nearby covered by BALH
Buckhurst Hill

Epping Forest District

Mill Green Windmill,_Fryerning


Ingatestone & Fryerning

Index of village history

Stondon Massey


History News Across Essex
This blog will try to cover everything about the heritage of the Blackmore Area. For coverage across the whole of Essex, the following link is recommended.

Historical Societies and Groups in Essex
Blackmore does not have a local history group but, to use a cliché, others are available.

Brentwood & District Historical Society

The Essex Congress lists a number of historical, heritage and civic groups and societies on its website. Follow the link.
Local History and Archaeological Societies in Essex
Essex Congress – home page

Essex Society for Archaeology and History - home page

The Foxearth and District Local History Society. A village in the north of Essex with an incredible website.
It includes a listing of “museums, stately homes and various other places to visit in East Anglia that would be of interest to anyone interested in History or Archaeology”.
Also ‘Links’ to other websites

Local History Workshop

Places to Visit

Copped Hall, Epping

Epping Forest District Museum, Waltham Abbey

Ingatestone Hall

North Weald Airfield Museum

Churches in Essex

This website, with many photos, is a real labour of love by its author, John Whitworth.
For the Blackmore page, follow this link. “Carlsberg don't make timber church towers ...but if they did ... they'd be the best timber church towers in the world!”

Lost Churches in Essex
Andrew Barham’s book includes nearby Berners Roding.

Brentwood Cathedral
This is featured on a blog profiling architects Quinlan and Francis Terry

Essex Record Office

The starting point for on-line research. Find out what amazing documents are available at Chelmsford.

Victoria County History
Ongar Hundred
Victoria County History Volume IV. Ongar Hundred, published in 1956. Reproduced on British History Online
In case you are wondering, the history of Chelmsford Hundred has not been published by VCH yet. It is an ongoing project. Work is concentrating at present on the seaside towns in the Tendring area.